Friends and I have often joked about what current parental mishap will surely send our kids to therapy someday.  I usually laugh and then cringe inside because there are just so many, many moments of parenting– and they all add up to just one childhood.  Which moments will my girls remember as adults?  The ones where I am frustrated and nagging or the ones where we are snuggling up reading a good book together?  As a parent, I of course want my kids to have the best possible memories of their childhood,  and I feel angst when my 5-year-old says things like “No one ever plays with me” after my husband and I have spent the whole day hanging out with her but have taken a 20-minute break to do housework.
It’s interesting what our minds choose to hold on to– out of the 1,440 minutes in a day, sometimes only two  of those minutes will filter down and make it into the “keep this” category.  While I sometimes wish I could program my kids’ filter system to hang on to all the good memories and throw out the bad, I of course know that I can only help them learn how to process the harder memories and perhaps help them remember aspects of the not-so-fun memories that are redeeming.  My mom, while not on active parental duty anymore, still helps me do that on occasion.
A couple months ago I received a nice comment on our blog from a mother, Amy, whose 10-year-old son has RP and responded very positively after being told his prognosis. Amy writes:
“When we explained everything to him that the retina specialist told us, his response was, ‘Well, Mommy, I guess you’ll have to be my personal chauffeur for life.’ He has such a positive, optimistic attitude and view on life in general, so he is a great example for my husband and I when we start to feel sorry for him.”
I lamented to my mom that I wish I’d had that kind of personality as a child.  My mom replied that she remembers me as that kind of child and went on to say that after realizing I couldn’t get my license at 16, I said, “That’s okay, mom.  I have a great family, a nice boyfriend and get good grades in school.  I couldn’t ask for much more–I have it pretty good.”  Now, whether that was a cover to mask my true feelings at the time or whether I really meant it, I’m not exactly sure.  But it’s strange how when I think of that day– the one where the driver’s ed instructor spoke in low tones to my parents in our front entryway- I remember it differently.  I remember fleeing to the neighbor’s house where I was housesitting.  I remember changing their cat’s litter box with tears streaming down my face and sinking onto their red velvet sofa in sobs of disappointment and self-pity.  But my mom’s recollection of this event puts a slightly new spin on that difficult day in my mind and makes me feel kind of….. strong.

Amy just shared another snippet about her son’s day-to-day dealings with RP that said:
 “I thought about your blog the other day when Nathan came home from school and said he got hit in the face in gym class three times with basketballs. His glasses were broken and he had a substitute teacher that day, so he walked around with no glasses on with his friends sticking close by him. His one friend even had Nathan dictate his answers to him and wrote it out for him as the boxes were to small for Nathan to see and the teacher wasn’t there. Nathan, Mr. Positivity, came home and had his first meltdown over his vision, saying it was the worst day ever. Poor guy! He was so proud of himself, though, that he held it all together until he got home that day!”
I really loved how she ended the story with him being proud of himself for holding it together until he got home because that’s the piece her son may not remember when thinking back on his difficult day– that he was strong.  And she can remind him of that.  And I think that will make a difference in how he views himself.  

And that’s something we can all do as parents – whether our kids have RP or not- help them see that little piece of their story that seems hidden to them.  And hopefully someday they’ll help us do the same if we’re beating ourselves up about what we could have done differently as parents (after they’re done complaining about us in therapy, that is!).  

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10 thoughts on “How to Not Mess Up Your Kids (too badly)

  1. Enjoy reading your blog. My husband and I joke that we are saving for therapy and not college! Parenting is the most difficult job I have ever done. We just try to live by example…what works for one kid usually doesn’t work with the others. It can be maddening, thrilling, frustrating, and rewarding all in the same day. I look at parenting the way I look at life with RP…a day at a time!
    Thanks for sharing your life and thoughts!

    • I really like this Joy!!! You are a wonderful writer! I will have to send you a few different things I have done when I get a chance! I always cry with things like this- and no exception with your piece! PMS on top of it didn’t help today! Haha – I have a 21 year old – not sure if you remember that? and my “parenting regrets” come & go with him! Now that he is an adult- I can definitely do this practice tho! I also like that he now tells me things we did wrong/ hurtful/ not to his liking as parents because I believe that is a good release & then I have a chance to own my imperfections/mistakes, apologize and tell him how much he is loved & that I did the best I could. He is my first child – so he got some of my biggies ( mistake – wise) but funny thing is …because each kid is so dang different- I get to make all new faux pas(s) with the other two! Thank Goodness for grace, forgiveness & a faithful God who uses everything for the good of those who believe (and trust in Him!)

      • Thanks Joy G– looking forward to reading your blog as well (and your book– so excited for you!) Yes, these conversations are difficult to have– both as an adult child and as a parent. Your humility as a parent is such a gift to your son. And yes, I am so thankful for forgiveness and grace!

    • Thanks Allie! You can mark down in the books about reminding Luke how helpful he was in switching Mitchell to a big boy bed and Mitchell how brave he was to switch. 🙂

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  2. And it is very fascinating how the years give a parent a peaceful perspective; a sort of ‘negative amnesia’ if you will….So that we only remember our kids being ‘strong’ and full of grace. it must me a lot like amnesia after giving birth. After awhile we focus only on the excitement, the passion, the extreme feelings of motherly love. Though I do remember wanting so much for Joy and Jenelle; that ‘itchy’ feeling of aggravation about the limitations, I more remember the peaceful feeling when they showed grace and strength. Moms seem to be resilient that way!

  3. I remember my mom telling me … its okay, you don’t have to like it. She tells me she doesn’t remember saying that but it was empowering to me. Suddenly with the space to feel a bit like I don’t like this RP … I was free to express and then move forward. As you say, so much of life is good but at times it can feel a bit overwhelming! I’m loving your blog – just checked in to see if you had a new post :).

    • Yes, absolutely, you don’t have to like it. I wish I would have left more room in life to say to Joy and Jenelle, “That sure sucks!” Knowing that gives one that space as you describe. Yes, so much of life is good, but overwhelming and stressful at the same time. “Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing at all!” Helen Keller — In my mind, we have had enough adventure in our family and now I want sameness and boringness. In my heart, I know that is never going to happen:)

    • Thanks so much Becky. Sounds like I would like your mom’s advice- whether she remembers saying it or not:-). Yeah we haven’t updated the blog in a little while because of a lot of challenges and busyness going on. The new entry will post soon. Thanks for reading

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